The ASME Code [1] identifies the modes of failure that must be addressed to ensure acceptable pressure vessel designs. The failure modes addressed in this paper are precluded by limits on the primary and primary plus secondary stress. Both involve the transition from elasticity to plasticity. Their evaluation requires the computation of membrane and bending stresses (the linearized stresses). The original techniques for evaluating the limits were based on beam and shell theory. Since beam and shell theory were the basis of the then-current tools, the transition from analysis results to failure assessment was straightforward. With the advent of finite elements (FE), the transition from the stress distribution to the failure modes requires a different path. For three-dimensional finite element (3D FE), the path is obscure. Since the development of FE, the ASME Code has made no additions to clarify the correlations between FE stress distributions and the failure modes. The authors believe that the Code should provide guidance in this area.

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